Star Trek: Discovery is currently on TV, continuing the tradition of having women in high-power roles. Not only will Sonequa Martin-Green be the show’s main character, First Officer Michael Burnham, but Michelle Yeoh will be also be on as Captain Georgiou.
As we go forth into Star Trek’s next age, let’s look back at its history, the good, the bad, and the ugly of representing women in ranks of power. Here are the women who have either
held the rank of Captain or who have commanded a starship on screen in the Star Trek realm.
Star Trek has consistently had the best of intentions when it comes to its portrayal of female lead characters, even when the outlooks of the times (such as the studio’s request for the removal of Majel Barrett’s female Number One after the original pilot episode) or circumstance (Denise Crosby leaving The Next Generation, causing a regular cast made up of 5 men and just 2 women, both in care-giving roles) have been against it.
Sadly, the first time a woman took command of a starship on screen wasn’t good. In fact, it was awful. No amount of excusing it on the grounds of it being the 60s can conceivably make up for the portrayal of Dr. Janice Lester in what was, regrettably the last episode of the Original Series broadcast during its original television run.
She was supposed to be crazy when she swapped bodies with Captain Kirk so that she could run a starship, but the issues with her command are clearly shown in the dialogue to be at least partly due to being a woman and the nature of her craziness widely expressed in extreme emotion and what Doctor McCoy refers to as hysteria, a word that clearly relates her failure to control her femininity.